Did you know that your liver performs at least 500 functions that keep you healthy? The real number is probably even higher, as researchers are still discovering ways in which this hard-working organ benefits our health.
Your liver is the heaviest organ in your body and also the second-largest organ (after your skin). One of its main functions is to process nutrients from the food you eat and to flush out toxins. But that’s only the beginning. Your liver also builds proteins, makes bile, maintains blood sugar levels, and much more.
That’s why a healthy liver is crucial for overall health and wellbeing. When your liver is overburdened or sluggish, your entire body will suffer.
Inflammatory conditions such as fatty liver disease or hepatitis can severely affect the liver's many functions and ultimately lead to poor health.
Fortunately, it’s easy to keep your liver in good condition – and there’s every reason to do so.
Here are the top 10 benefits of a healthy liver!
When you eat, your digestive system immediately begins to break down food into small pieces. Eventually, these nutrients enter your bloodstream and pass through your liver. Your liver then processes these nutrients according to your body’s needs.
No matter how healthy your diet is, your body won’t be able to use any of the nutrients in the food you eat unless your liver is doing its job properly. (1)
Minutes after you eat a meal, your liver begins sorting out the breakdown of fats and sugars. Within just half an hour, your liver has made a complete switch from burning fat for energy to storing as much glucose (sugar) as possible.
Once your liver has processed the vitamins and minerals from your food, it stores some of them for future use by converting them to a form that your body can call on for quick energy.
It uses other nutrients to make important chemicals that your body needs for its everyday functions. For example, a large amount of the lipoproteins your body needs are synthesized in the liver.
The liver is also the main site where excess carbohydrates and proteins are converted into fatty acids and triglyceride, which are then exported and stored in adipose tissue (fat).
If your liver is diseased or damaged, this process is severely hindered. Someone with liver failure may even end up with nutritional deficiencies that lead to serious illness such as brain damage and coma.
Bile is a yellowish fluid that helps to break down food. Bile acids are essential for their effects on cholesterol homeostasis and lipid digestion.
Your liver produces bile to assist with digestion – especially digestion of fat – as food from your stomach passes into the intestines. Bile is made in your liver but stored in the gallbladder.
When you eat a meal that’s high in saturated fat (not that we recommend this!) your store of bile will help in breaking down this fat. In fact, your liver usually breaks down many more fatty acids than your liver cells need so that it can export large quantities of special compounds called acetoacetate into your blood, which are then picked up and readily metabolized by other tissues.
If your liver is unable to produce enough bile, you’ll not only suffer from indigestion but a decrease in the production of these fatty acids too. (2)
Your liver is a filter that all of your blood passes through. This is important because like any good filter, your liver pulls out the things that may cause harm to your body. This includes toxins such as drugs and alcohol.
Your liver separates these toxins from your blood and sends them off to be removed from your body. Along with things like penicillin and Tylenol, your liver also removes stuff that your body no longer needs, such as old hormones, damaged cells and proteins.
Your liver also has to remove ammonia from your body by making urea. Ammonia is very toxic and, if it is not quickly and efficiently removed from the blood, can lead to central nervous system disorders.
Your body is made up of proteins: they’re the stuff of your muscles, skin and bones.
These proteins are complex chemicals that need to be constantly produced.
Your liver is in charge of building many of these proteins and supplying them throughout your body.
Liver cells called hepatocytes are responsible for making most of your plasma proteins, including albumin, the major plasma protein. Albumin is synthesized almost exclusively by the liver, along with many non-essential amino acids.
In addition, some of the proteins your liver produces are responsible for blood clotting. It’s your liver that makes the clotting factors necessary for blood coagulation.
If your liver is impaired, it may not produce enough of these proteins for your blood to clot effectively. This can result in serious bleeding or bruising in the event of injury. (3)
Another big job for the liver is in balancing the sugar in your bloodstream. It’s vital for all human beings to maintain the glucose in their blood within a certain narrow range.
Maintaining normal blood glucose levels over both short (hours) and long (days to weeks) periods of time depends on how well your liver is functioning.
When a meal has been processed by your digestive system, your liver removes sugars from your blood and stores them in the form of glycogen. This glycogen is a form of quick-release energy.
If your blood sugar drops, your body converts this stored glycogen into glucose and sends it to your muscles to fuel your cells.
Your liver is basically your blood-recycling factory. It not only produces blood during fetal development, but renews your blood cells during adulthood.
Your liver breaks down blood cells that are old or damaged. In fact, it’s the main organ of red blood cell removal and iron recycling.
Research has shown that your liver relies on a buffer system consisting of special monocytes that ‘eat’ damaged red blood cells in the blood and settle in the liver, where they become another kind of cell called macrophages, which are able to recycle iron. This iron is then stored along with other vitamins which can be used when your body needs them.
When you drink alcohol, around 25 percent is absorbed from your stomach into your bloodstream. The rest is mostly absorbed from your small bowel. Once in your bloodstream, alcohol remains in your body until it is processed by your liver.
Up to 98 per cent of alcohol is broken down in your liver; the rest is flushed out in your urine or sweat, or breathed out through your lungs.
Most alcohol is broken down by an enzyme called dehydrogenase (ADH). ADH breaks down alcohol into acetaldehyde, and then another enzyme quickly breaks down acetaldehyde into acetate. The acetate eventually leaves your body as carbon dioxide and water. (4)
Most of us will have taken pharmaceutical drugs, whether pain relief or antibiotics.
As you’ve probably heard, much of the drug metabolism in your body is done by your liver. The various metabolic processes in your liver convert the drug into a more water-soluble compound so that it can be moved out of your body without causing any harm to your sensitive organs.
Like alcohol, most drugs will be excreted through your body fluids in the form of urine or bile.
As drugs are metabolized, their therapeutic effect diminishes. As long as your liver is healthy and functioning properly, these substances can be safely flushed out of your body.
The liver plays a major role in regulating the balance of your sex hormones, thyroid hormones, cortisol, and other adrenal hormones. It also transforms or removes any excess hormones from your body before they can upset your normal functioning.
If your liver is unable to do this work, you may suffer from a variety of symptoms including emotional imbalances.
For example, a build-up of adrenaline may lead to mood swings and anxiety. It may also weaken the immune system, affecting the body’s ability to fight pathogens or viruses. (5)
An underperforming liver can have major implications for your health. Symptoms of poor liver health can include fatigue, nausea, itchy skin, and brain fog.
Luckily, there’s plenty that you can do to support your liver!
Here are 11 natural supplements that are scientifically proven to support good liver health.
You can read more about these supplements in our blog post here.
If you want to give your liver the boost that it needs, check out our Liver Support formula. It contains all of the 11 natural supplements listed above, in a formula designed to boost your energy, eliminate brain fog, and more.